Nuclear Talks Begin: An Analysis

Iran has entered into talks with the UN concerning its nuclear program. After years of steadily increasing sanctions the middle eastern power seemed to be willing to cooperate. The summit took place last week in Istanbul, Turkey, on 14th April. States present included Iran, the permanent members of the UN Security Council (the UK, the US, France, Russia, and China), and Germany. The talks sought to address long-held fears that the Iranian nuclear program was working towards achieving nuclear weapons capability. Reaching this stage would make Iran the 9th nation confirmed to have tested nuclear weapons.

It would appear that Iran, who attended the talks willingly, was finally ready to negotiate with the UN over its controversial nuclear development; although how much influence the economic sanctions had on this decision is difficult to say. The chief Iranian representative, Saeed Jalili,  said, on the subject of the talks, that “We had differences of opinion but the points we agreed on are important and tangible” (source The Guardian). Furthermore Baroness Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief, was also positive.

We had differences of opinion but the points we agreed on are important and tangible- Saeed Jalili

This sounds like real progress. Up until now Iran has limited the amount of access the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) has had to facilities in the middle eastern country, especially restricting their inspections of the underground facility at Fordo. If the Iranian government is willing to demonstrate to the UN, as it is hoped they will, that their nuclear research has no military application then real progress could be made. However, this may not be the case.

Baroness Ashton and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in February 2012

While on the surface it may seem that progress was made at the summit it is necessary to ask what actually changed. Baroness Ashton said that the period between the first and second summits will be focused on how to “build confidence, and how… [to] actually move forward” (source BBC). However, the positive comments made by the Baroness and Mr Jalili should not be over-extrapolated. There was no concrete change made at the meeting. Good intentions have been iterated, but nothing important has been signed or even firmly agreed upon. It would appear that, until May 23 at least, Iran is free to continue its nuclear program without further hindrance. This will not please Israel, who were not part of the UN negotiation delegation at Saturday’s meeting. Earlier this year Israel made it clear that it would consider a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

So, little evidence has come from the talks thus far that things will change, other than the fact that the talks took part in the first place. It is important, however, to note that the negotiations may have stalled any consideration of military intervention. This is no small feat. President Obama, as discussed in my previous post Nuclear Mess Thickens, had previously refused to rule out the use of force to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

There was no concrete change made at the meeting

The possible delay of military intervention should not be underestimated as an outcome for the meeting in Istanbul, but neither should the fact that Iran is free to continue its nuclear research with no new sanctions imposed. Conflict may have been delayed, but the problem is far from solved. The summit on May 23rd will yield more clues as to how effective diplomacy is going to be in this situation. As always, keep an eye on the news.

Main information sources/articles referenced:

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